Leeds United conceded from another set-piece on Monday night as West Ham secured a 2-0 win at the London Stadium – with Craig Dawson nodding Aaron Cresswell’s corner into the back of the net. With the issue of set-plays continually playing havoc at Leeds this season, Nigel Martyn has told LeedsUnited.News the advice he would give to Illan Meslier going forward.
Leeds came into the match with the knowledge that they would be tested by the Hammers when it comes to corners and free-kicks. At Elland Road in the reverse fixture, Angelo Ogbonna and Tomas Soucek scored from set-pieces – and it was a similar case on Monday night. Jesse Lingard opened the scoring after his penalty was saved by Meslier, tapping home the rebound.
It came after Leeds had started well – having goals from Tyler Roberts and Patrick Bamford ruled out for offside, and the ball going out of play. Lingard’s penalty was a sucker punch, and then an even greater one came seven minutes later. Michail Antonio was being marked by Stuart Dallas, right on the toes of Meslier and it caused Leeds to capitulate from a corner.
Leeds icon Martyn believes the Whites need to take a different approach to defending from set-pieces. He has sympathy with 21-year-old Meslier, stating the French goalkeeper was put in an incredibly difficult situation – but he thinks swapping Dallas and Antonio around makes more sense, and allows Meslier a better chance of getting to the ball.
“They blocked him in. To be fair to Meslier, it is difficult,” Martyn told LeedsUnited.News. “If someone is going to block him in, you have to mark him. I would rather have them marked on the outside – but still marking him, but they’re not then blocking the goalkeeper. I would have Dallas, the other side of Antonio, in this case. It gives you a little bit more room. He thought his only way out is forward, it is difficult. You have to gamble a little bit, and get out there.”
A deep, inswinging corner from Cresswell was played right into the six-yard box and Dawson came steaming in – heading home. Normally, a ball landing in the six-yard box would have been claimed by the keeper – but Meslier was caught on his heels as Antonio prevented him from getting out. The goal proved enough for the Hammers, despite dominating the second 45.
Patrick Bamford missed two glorious chances, Raphinha had a stinging effort palmed away by Lukasz Fabianski – while the Brazilian’s deflected overhead kick was tipped over the bar. Vladimir Coufal came within a yard or two of scoring an own goal – but somehow, the Hammers managed to hold onto a clean sheet, while Leeds might have a nervous glance over their shoulder.
Martyn continued, stating that going forward – Meslier needs to focus on the flight of the ball and master predicting where the ball will end up. If he can do that before the attacker, then he holds an advantage – also commenting on Rob Green’s claim that Meslier will improve from set-pieces with experience: “He got under the ball and did not assess the flight of it. You must assess the flight first, and then get to the highest point.
“If he stays on his line, he still has a chance of making a block. It’s not as easy as you think. He has my sympathy. Rob Green was saying it comes with experience, but if you’re 35 – you can get blocked in there. Get him marked on the outside, it gives you more room. That would be one thing I would ask to do, along with needing a player at the back post. There is plenty of work that needs doing.”